By Rev. Judith T. Lester, B.Min. M.Th
“Be still and know that I am God”
– Psalm 46:10
These are unusual times indeed. No one could have ever envisioned that a time would come when public worship services would be canceled. Many people are hurting because they are not able to gather and fellowship; religious leaders are grieved because they cannot physically meet and see their parishioners during this time. It is not lost on this writer that we are social beings. But physically distancing ourselves does not mean we cannot stay connected “socially.” Advancements in technology allow connecting via social media, facetiming, and, of course calling each other on the phone.
Even as the nation conforms to the physical distancing directive from the President and Governor Evers’ Safer-At-Home Order, Easter will still arrive in a few days. Easter is the central point for the celebration of many other Christian events such as the culmination of Lent, celebration of Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Good Friday. Honoring Gov. Evers’ Safer-at-Home directive does not have to cancel Easter services or the activities leading up to Resurrection Sunday. In this age of technology, services can be held virtually. Until the public health crisis has passed, this will be our new norm. This article will offer suggestions to continue to stay connected, “socially,” spiritually and virtually, as we prepare to honor and celebrate the holy season.
Palm Sunday – Many churches around our country are still offering palms on Palm Sunday but with some creativity. Parishioners are invited to drive up and pick up palms from the church steps, while a member of the clergy or prayer team offers a word of prayer. All participants, however, must honor the physical distancing rule.
Virtual Services – Many churches are offering virtual church service where anyone can watch the service live through a social media outlet. Many of these services will be live streamed or pre-recorded and available during Holy Week and Easter and until the restrictions regarding gathering are lifted. Keep in mind since many seniors may not be social media savvy, it would be helpful if the congregation’s video technician posts a “How To” video offering step-by-step instructions for seniors so they can connect to live streaming. For their senior members, churches are also dropping off CDs, upon request, at the door of their seniors who may not have access to the Internet.
Spiritual Resources Online – Many churches are counting down the days prior to Resurrection Sunday by offering daily devotions via email or social media. Churches are providing a link with up-to-date electronic and spiritual resources on their website or through email so that parishioners and those who want to connect with the church, can do so. These resources include opportunities for persons ask questions about salvation or respond to the invitation to Christian discipleship.
Group Bible Study – Bible study can also be held through weekly community groups virtually by social media outlets such as Zoom or www.Rightnowmedia.com. Pair-groups can also meet for Bible study, prayer and meditation during set and regular times during the week through Facetime.
Online Worship in Giving – Even though the body of Christ is not meeting physically, does not relieve us of our obligation to give. Many churches have implemented online giving opportunities that can be accessed through the church’s website or through giving apps such as Givelify, PayPal/Venmo, etc. Also, check with your local bank as they may have apps available for you to give to your church. The U.S. Postal Service, an essential business, can also deliver your tithes and offerings to the church.
The bottom line is, until Governor Evers’ Safer-at- Home order and the President’s physical distancing directive is lifted, the faith community must accept the new norm and be creative in staying connected and available to their parishioners and those who wish to accept Christ as their Savior and Lord. These worshipping alternatives not only honor the Safer-at Home Order and the President’s physical distancing directive, but they also keep the faith community spiritually and virtually connected until we are able to get back together.
Beloved, during these times, put your trust in God and take refuge in the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’ Resurrection provides comfort that God is more powerful than anything we might face in this life. Often, when we are facing a crisis, our hope and faith wanes. But when we can hope in the face of times of uncertainty, we can weather the crisis and get through this together. Until it is safe to gather, the safest course of action is accepting the new norm – appreciating and utilizing social media for virtual services and staying social with loved ones and friends. Let us be creative while we fight against the COVID-19 virus. And pray for those workers on the front lines: health care workers, National Guard, respiratory technicians, first responders, grocery store workers, truck drivers who carry necessary supplies for our daily sustenance, and others who sacrifice themselves for us. In the meantime, it is my prayer, you will find comfort in these words:
“Be still and know that I am God.”
– Psalm 46:10
General Disclaimer: The writer has used her best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered. Neither the publisher nor the writer shall be liable in any way for readers’ efforts to apply, rely or utilize the information or recommendations presented herein as they may not be suitable for you or necessarily appropriate for every situation to which they may refer. This information is for educational purposes only. In some instances, this article contains the opinions, conclusions and/or recommendations of the writer. If you would like to contact Rev. Lester, write to her c/o P.O. Box 121, Brookfield, WI. 53008.